Recently, The Kid and I went to watch “Into The Woods”. (Spoiler alert, stop reading now if that sort of thing bothers you). We knew it had Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp in it, and also Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick. We also knew Emily Blunt played the role of the Baker’s Wife. We had an idea it was a big screen adaptation of a Musical by Stephen Sondheim.
We had no idea it would be so twisted, tongue in cheek and morbidly fun. And that it would not stop after the requisite fairytale ending, but carry on literally into the woods, where it became darker and more sinister than before.
Essentially the story revolves around the Baker and his Wife, who are childless. Then there are also not one but two Prince Charmings, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf, a Grandmother, a Single Mother, Jack and a couple of giant beanstalks and Giants. Throw in the Witch, who really isn’t that wicked but just would really, really like her youth and beauty restored. And a list of 4 simple items which the Baker and his Wife must procure in order for them to have a baby. Such items being:
1) A Cow as white as milk
2) A Cape as red as blood
3) Hair the colour of corn
4) A shoe as yellow as gold
Of which of course Jack of the beanstalk fame would provide the first, Red Riding Hood the second, Rapunzel the third (or maybe not), and Cinderella the fourth. And the poor cow, who had been dead and miraculously resurrected by the Witch, would have to then eat all 4 items. I bet that would’ve killed it again, poor thing.
But anyway, at the end of the first half of the movie, the Witch was beautiful and young again, the Baker and his Wife had an instant and rather large bun in the oven, ready to pop soon, the Giant was dead, Rapunzel had her Prince, and Cinderella hers…though this Cinderella was in two minds about whether she should go or stay with her Prince Charming. I think she knew there could be bigger and better things for her if she didn’t just stop at the first Prince to kiss her. Good girl.
But then the Giant’s Wife comes down a giant beanstalk, that had grown from a bean that had been carelessly cast into the ground by Cinderella when the Baker’s Wife had tried to trade it for one of her golden shoes earlier. (Yes, it was one of Those parties). The Giantess naturally wanted revenge on wee Jack, who had slain her husband.
Meanwhile, while all sorts of things were going on in the woods, the Baker’s Wife encounters Cinderella’s Prince Charming, who seduces her. When she asks how he could do such a thing, as he’s newly married to Cinderella, he shrugs and says “I was raised to be charming, not sincere”. And seduces the Baker’s Wife even more.
After Prince Charming’s ridden off into the sunset, the Baker’s Wife has a soliloquy, pondering what had just happened.
There are vows, there are ties
There are needs, there are standards,
There are shouldn’ts and shoulds.
Why not both instead?
There’s the answer, if you’re clever:
Have a child for warmth,
And a baker for bread,
And a prince for whatever —
It’s these woods.
Just remembering you’ve had an “and”
When you’re back to “or”
Makes the “or” mean more
Than it did before.
Now I understand —
And it’s time to leave the woods.
Upon which suddenly the Giantess appears, causing the ground to shake. The Baker’s Wife runs for cover, and we see her hover against a backdrop of cliffs…then zoot! She’s gone.
I want to know why the writers decided that the Baker’s Wife had to die because she committed adultery, while Prince Charming gets away scot free…and especially when it was He who seduced Her. He won’t even have to get a divorce from Cinderella, as theirs was a marriage presumably unconsummated, due to the chaos caused by the Giantess so soon after their wedding.
Cinderella, who may have gotten clean away from Prince Charming and gone on to count the latest as a lucky escape, ends up holding the baby, literally, and even volunteers to help look after the Baker’s now 3 children, and cook and clean for him. Back to square one for that missy, then. Oh yes, the Baker, who had previously had no children, now finds himself saddled with a wee bairn, and Red and Jack, who are now both motherless and have no other family.
Hmmm…something’s not quite right in that twisted tale. The only “happily ever after” that I can see could have been that of Rapunzel and Her Prince Charming, last seen galloping away together on horseback. Rapunzel might have discovered that her Prince Charming has a fetish for long hair and since she no longer has that, he might turn to eating corn on the cob and hoarding the silk, and she might have grown fat after discovering all the sweet and delicious pastries and cakes that the Witch had neglected to supply her with while stuck in the Tower.
We’ll never know for sure. Maybe
there is no such thing as “Happily Ever After”. There is no Mr Right, just Mr Right Now. Adulterers get away with adultery. Some even become serial adulterers, when they’re not being stomped on by Giantesses or falling off cliffs. Or when they have mighty steeds upon which to gallop away on. Cinderellas might find being single and carefree preferable to being tied down to a vapid, vain Lothario. Witches might find it more convenient to a abandon their vegetable patches and grow magic mushrooms underground instead, thus avoiding having to curse a neighbour and his family with infertility and start the whole sorry story snowballing.